Former Liberal cabinet minister Donald Macdonald dead at 86, family says

The family of former Liberal politician and cabinet minister Donald Macdonald says he passed away today at the age of 86.

Macdonald was a cabinet minister under former prime minister Pierre Trudeau

Donald Macdonald was chairman of the Royal Commission on the Economy. He is shown here at the commission's headquarters in Ottawa on Aug. 15, 1983. His family said he passed away Sunday at the age of 86. (Chris Schwarz/UPC/Canadian Press)

Longtime Liberal politician and former cabinet minister Donald Macdonald died on Sunday at the age of 86, his family said.

His daughter Sonja Macdonald said he died in his sleep at his Toronto home.

"He was a great Canadian," she said through tears. "He committed his life to building this country."

Macdonald, who was born in Ottawa, was elected to the House of Commons in 1962 and was a cabinet minister under Pierre Trudeau.

Macdonald is shown speaking to reporters after the release of the royal commission report on the Canadian economy in September, 1985. His daughter Sonja says he died in his sleep at his Toronto home. (The National/CBC Archives)

Macdonald served as minister of national defence, minister of energy, mines and resources, minister of finance and president of the Privy Council during his career.

In the early 1980s, he was appointed as the chairman of the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada, where he endorsed free trade with the United States.

The commission was given three years to complete the task of examining the future of Canada's economic prospects and its political institutions. The commission had a significant impact on the argument for the benefit of free trade with the U.S.

The recommendations were then presented to Brian Mulroney, who became prime minister in 1984.

In 1988, Mulroney appointed Macdonald High Commissioner of Canada to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a post he held for about three years.

'He was very humble'

Macdonald was named a companion of the Order of Canada in 1994 for his contributions to trade and social policy development.

"He was very humble," Sonja Macdonald said. "He was also funny, warm, smart and engaging."

Thumper: The Memoirs of the Honourable Donald S. Macdonald was published in 2014 and explored his four-decade political career. It also detailed his friendship with Trudeau and encounters with world leaders.

The co-author of the memoir, Rod McQueen, told TVO that Thumper was a nickname for Macdonald because he had big feet.

Macdonald, who had four children and seven step-children, was also an avid tree-planter for most of his life, Sonja Macdonald said. She said he was passionate about reforesting and that he had been planting trees on the family's property in Uxbridge, Ont.

She said her father will also be remembered for his sense of fashion.

"He was very sharp dresser," she said. "He went nowhere without a bow tie."


  • A previous version of this story misidentified Sonja Macdonald as a co-author of Thumper: The Memoirs of the Honourable Donald S. Macdonald. The book was written by Donald Macdonald with Rod McQueen.
    Oct 14, 2018 8:28 PM ET